Chelsea's Reviews > Lock and Key

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
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Oct 29, 07

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bookshelves: advance, own, youngadult, 2007, contemporaryfiction, fiction
Read in October, 2007

This is the first Sarah Dessen I've read, after much prompting. Her plots always seemed cheesy and melodramatic to me (based entirely on wildly varying reviews I've read and, you know, the back of the books), the young adult version of Jodi Piccoult (another author I am judging without ever having read her, shame on me). And, well... I don't see myself seeking out any of her others. I finished it off in about three hours, and... The beginning was mostly me rolling my eyes and going "oh, please", because either Dessen or Ruby was trying too hard to make Ruby seem tragic (there are few things I desire less than to get into a discussion over whether or not Dessen's narrator was supposed to be unreliable), and I just wasn't really buying. It could have been built up into real character development, except that it wasn't. Instead, Ruby was cranky and uncooperative (imagine! a real life teenager!) until her sister told her what really happened when Ruby was a little girl, and then she was just... a teenager, but with less real angst.

And then it devolved into "I'm so worried about my boyfriend and what do you mean he's just like me, oh man, he's totally like me, I must have been a huge pain in the ass for everyone around me, yay kissing."

I need someone to tell me if this is her standard book, or if I should give her a second chance, because I wasn't very impressed.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

You pretty much hammered the nail right on the head. Sarah Dessen is really popular for the pure and simple fact that she writes formulaic teenage love stories with a little bit of drama/angst thrown in, and a whole lot of cute, boy next door. She does tend to develop her characters more than many other YA authors out there, though.


Chelsea Oh, awesome. This means I don't have to read any more of her books! Sometimes I don't get it - there are SO MANY good YA books out there, and she's crazy popular?


Michelle She writes for her demographic, which is suburban middle school girls who don't want to have to work too hard. They want a little romance but not much more than kissing, need some drama, and I agree that she does better character development than most similar novels. She also has characters who are more principled than many similar novels. I think this was the first one where the main character isn't pretty regular white bread suburban. She's crazy popular because the formula works.


Chelsea Generally I don't have anything against formulaic novels (I read both Meg Cabot and romance novels in general, after all), but Dessen just didn't do it for me. I can't say I'll ever seek out another one of her books, but if one were to fall into my lap, I wouldn't say no.

Is there one of her books you would really recommend over her others? Personal favorite? Or are they all pretty uniform?


Michelle I feel like she's gotten more formulaic over time, though stronger within that formula. My favorite of her books was two ago: The Truth About Forever. I also liked This Lullaby. Those two are by far my favorites, but they definitely follow the formula.

The book that is least like the formula is Dreamland, which was also the first of hers that I ever read. It is pretty dark.


Jeanne Standard. Don't give her another chance--they're all cheesy and melodramatic.


Chelsea Thanks Jeanne! That seems to be the consensus - I'm officially crossing her off my to-read list forever.


message 8: by Liz (new) - rated it 3 stars

Liz you picked a bad one. if you had started reading Dessen maybe a few years back with a choice like This Lullaby, you might have been a fan.


message 9: by Meryl (new) - added it

Meryl "This Lullaby" was the forst Dessen book I read, and is so far the only one I liked. But, yeah, all her books are pretty much the same. Girl meets boy, then a problem, then a BIg resolution! And so much drama and teen this-and-that. It's kinda weird. I read "Just Listen" after "This Lullaby" and found that they were very similar.


Jennifer I thought that actually her writing is a relief to all of the other romance books i have read. many of them now have confusing plots and her's are pretty simple. People shouldn't cross her off their to read list because of some people don't like her books. I think that everyone has their own opionin and should read her books before coming to a conclusion that she sucks


Janna I think Lock and Key is my least favorite Dessen book, for many of the reasons you cited. Yes, her books tend to be formulaic, but usually they are more fun or interesting. Like someone said, the one book that is quite different is Dreamland, which is about a girl in an abusive relationship... very well handled, though, I thought, not melodramatic.

I'd suggest you try some of her earlier novels. One of my favorites is Keeping the Moon. Someone Like You and That Summer are good, too. Of course, it could also be that I just enjoyed those more because I was a teen when I read them!


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Another GR friend of mine said Lock and Key is not Dessen's best.

Re Jodi Picoult, I have to say I really enjoyed My Sister's Keeper , but maybe you would not. I loved it more and more the more I thought about it though.


message 13: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val Dessen is popcorn reading, teenage chick lit, and yes, rather like a Jodi Picoult for teens. If you are looking for an author of serious literary merit, she's not the one for you. And yet, I really enjoy her books. Lock and Key was certainly not her best. I'd suggest giving Just Listen a try. It is by far my favorite, followed by the darkly fascinating Dreamland.


Lydia Michelle wrote: "She writes for her demographic, which is suburban middle school girls who don't want to have to work too hard. They want a little romance but not much more than kissing, need some drama, and I agre..." Coming from a suburban just out of middle school kid I think her writing is just average. I've read a reasonable amount of in depth 800 page books and sometinmes it's nice to take a brake and enjoy something simple where you don't have to think or get so in to it you don't do homework. All this said, I'm only reading it because I need a brake from fantasy so I thought i might try realistic fiction although usualy i wouldn't care for it(there is always a character with a depressing horrible life and I can't relate with the wohle divorced parents druggy thing at all). Just remember, it's not a bad book, it's just not realy in depth and original.




Lydia Chelsea wrote: "Generally I don't have anything against formulaic novels (I read both Meg Cabot and romance novels in general, after all), but Dessen just didn't do it for me. I can't say I'll ever seek out anoth..."

I've heard this particular book was one of her less well writen and then again some say they loved it.


Sylvia Carlson Personally I love all of the Sarah Dessen books and all my friends have about the same opinions as you guys but this is just the kind of book I get into and enjoy but I understand how a lot of people see it as cheesy. Its the kind of book you usually either love it or can't stand it and I understand if you don't. I do tho! And totally thought the characters were really well developed.


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